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Jamie Kinkeade
McKenzie Robinson | SBJ
Jamie Kinkeade

Business Spotlight: ‘Connection over Perfection’

The Studio leverages social media for inclusive fitness and hits 257,000 YouTube subscribers

Posted online

Make sure there’s lots of room to move, and then search “The Most Fun 15 Minute Cardio Dance Fitness Workout EVER” along with keywords “The Studio by Jamie Kinkeade” on YouTube. On the screen, Jamie Kinkeade, blonde hair tied in a bun and wearing hip-hop-style workout clothes, welcomes participants.

“Follow along the best that you can,” she says with a warm smile. “The most important thing is that you have fun and keep going. Laugh at yourself when you mess up.”

Kinkeade and another instructor jump – literally – into a high-intensity workout. They sing to the music and cheer on each other and their virtual participants, throughout the next 15 minutes.

“You’ve made it – catch your breath!” Kinkeade says as the workout ends. “You guys are amazing.  ... Enjoy the rest of your day knowing you did something awesome for yourself.”

Although Kinkeade’s YouTube channel includes over 100 workouts, this 15-minute dance blast holds a special place as it’s one of her first to go viral in a way that revolutionized her business. Her ideology was already novel, something she called a “bigger-picture purpose.”

“That’s a term I came up with to try and explain in a simple way to my instructors that were new to think about how we cue,” she says. “We learn to appreciate, respect and admire the way that our bodies help us live more joyfully instead of what they look like.”

Fitness has been a passion for Kinkeade, but she struggled with body image and ultimately developed an eating disorder at a young age. During her healing process, she sought ways to overcome self-hate and body shame – and one place she did not find those resources initially was in the fitness industry.

“Everywhere I went, all they talked about was losing weight, getting smaller, looking better,” she says. “I know I can’t be the only one out there who’s thinking that this can’t be good for our mental health.”

Kinkeade found Zumba and immediately loved the high-energy dance. A teacher at Nixa Public Schools at the time, she became certified to instruct in 2011 and began hosting classes in an elementary school gym.

Nearly 100 participants joined Kinkeade’s final class at the school, overflowing into the hallways. Among those attendees was Cami White, a Nixa physical education teacher who admits she was hesitant when Kinkeade first told her about dance workouts. But she became hooked and began helping Kinkeade teach.

“I was craving it,” White says. “Every class is going to be different, so you’re never bored.”

With Kinkeade’s classes gaining popularity, by 2013, it was time to find a bigger studio. One of her clients owned space in a shopping center that was offered free of charge so she could continue her classes.

“There was no air conditioner, no heat,” Kinkeade recalls. “We’d meet at 5 a.m. and start class literally with coats and gloves and boots on and then shed clothes as we were sweaty.”

Clearly, there was a need for the “bigger-picture purpose.” Kinkeade boils it down to the desire for honest connection and unconditional acceptance.

“In my journey of finding balance and healing for the first time ever,” Kinkeade writes on her website’s “The Mission” page. “I learned that the world of fitness was missing the single most important thing humans need: Connection over perfection.”

In 2016, Kinkeade moved The Studio to its current spot on Republic Road. The moment she hit the Springfield market, she says business boomed and her income doubled. Quickly, she began hiring new instructors and offering day care. She and her husband Jeremy purchased the adjacent office space to add a retail clothing store and hot room spaces.

January 2020 was The Studio’s best month on record with 176 members and a comparable number dropping in for events. Classes were sold out, overflow rooms were in use, and the team had just decided to post workouts on YouTube. Kinkeade was on vacation in Mexico when she got a message her 15-minute workout video had just gone viral. By the time she returned, the following on YouTube had skyrocketed from 400 to 30,000. It’s now at 257,000 subscribers.

“I never in my life dreamed that I would have a business that was doing that well,” she says, declining to disclose annual revenues. “My husband quit his job teaching because I needed his help. He became my manager, and it was enough to support both of us and our kids. It was just surreal. And then COVID hit.”

Suddenly, The Studio went from brimming with laughter and music to silence.

Jamie Kinkeade counts herself lucky that they already had begun experimenting with online class formats. From their living room, the Kinkeades rapidly adapted. They purchased a camcorder and set up a studio in their home. Clients raised $10,000 so the Kinkeades could purchase equipment that enabled higher-quality streaming.

“When we started our livestream classes, all of our clients didn’t have to miss a beat,” Kinkeade says. “2020, we would not have been able to survive it if I did not have such a strong group of women who banded together.”

White is still one of those women, continuing to teach classes a few times a week.

“I want girls to come to my class and truly be challenged physically and mentally, but then leave being so proud of what they did,” White says. “If I just did that at 5 a.m., there is nothing this day can throw at me that I can’t handle.”

The Studio offers three workout formats: live in the studio, on-demand online and livestream.

The Studio’s bigger picture today includes a global market, with subscribers found in Italy, Argentina, Cambodia and Zimbabwe. Next up is rolling out apps on the Roku, Apple and Android TV platforms, with a targeted launch in November. She is also looking to enlist instructors around the world.

The Studio is on Facebook and Instagram, and recently established a presence on TikTok.

Times change, social media expands, pandemics hit, membership grows – but Kinkeade says one thing stays the same: “We get messages every day saying that they’ve never loved their body more – women that have suffered from eating disorders that are healing themselves through this movement therapy; women who have gotten out of abusive relationships because they feel strong and confident enough to do it. That’s what our purpose is.”

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